How To Dry Peppers for a Kick of Spice All Year Long
Enjoy your homegrown peppers year-round with this easy preservation method.
Drying is the oldest and most common method of food preservation around the world. Any type of pepper—spicy or sweet—can be preserved by dehydration. The drying process intensifies the flavor of the pepper, so you can use less of it in a recipe or dish. Dehydrating peppers also takes less active time to complete than does canning, and it takes up less storage space in your pantry.
Most pepper varieties dehydrate well. Chili peppers and long sweet peppers dry exceptionally well because of their thinner flesh. Once dried, these peppers can be ground or crushed and used as an all-purpose flavoring or seasoning. Some chili peppers that dry well include:
There are a few methods to dry peppers. The easiest method is to string them up and hang them in a dry environment. However, this method can take months to complete, depending on the humidity in your area. You can also dry peppers in your oven, which is quicker, and it’s easier to control the temperature and humidity. Once you learn how to dry peppers, you will be able to enjoy your harvest all year long in soups, stews, stir-fries, and more.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Whether you harvest peppers you grow or buy them locally, if you are drying chili peppers in the oven or by hanging them, wear a pair of disposable gloves when handling the peppers. These peppers contain capsaicin, the heat-producing ingredient, which can irritate your skin, eyes, and nasal passages. Avoid scratching your eyes, nose, face, or any other exposed skin after handling chili peppers.
STEP 1: Preheat the oven.
Peppers need to dry at a slow rate at a low temperature to dehydrate properly. A temperature range of 140 to 180 degrees is ideal—any higher might cook your peppers instead of dehydrating them. Make sure your oven has a temperature setting that low. Most ovens bottom out at 170 degrees. It might be necessary to use the “warming” function on your oven to get that low temperature.
STEP 2: Harvest and wash fresh peppers.
Select only the best peppers that are firm and free of any blemishes or other damage. Wash them thoroughly and allow them to air dry. Although you can dry the peppers whole, slicing them lengthwise in half first will help them dry faster because it exposes more surface area.
If you want the peppers to be less spicy, remove the seeds and inner membranes. This is where most of the capsaicin is located. If you like your pepper seasoning fiery, leave them in the pepper.
STEP 3: Place peppers in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and put it in the oven.
Place the metal cooling rack on a baking sheet. Lay the sliced peppers on a metal cooling rack with enough space between them so that they are not touching. Don’t crowd the peppers—the extra space between them allows air to circulate. The cooling rack will also increase airflow around the peppers as they dry.
You can place more than one drying tray in your oven, but make sure they’re spaced 2 to 3 inches apart for air circulation. Prop the oven door open 2 to 6 inches throughout the process. This allows the moisture to escape during the drying process.
STEP 4: Bake for several hours, rotating peppers every 30 minutes.
The amount of time it takes to dry the peppers entirely will vary depending on the thickness of the pepper’s skin, the humidity, and oven temperature. Ideally, you should check on them every 30 minutes and rotate them. Repeat until the peppers are completely crispy to the touch. They should not have a leathery texture at all—that means there is still moisture in the peppers. This process can take 12-plus hours to complete.
STEP 5: Store dried peppers in an airtight jar.
Once the peppers are entirely dehydrated, allow them to cool completely. Store them whole in an airtight container alongside the spices in your pantry. You can also break them into smaller pieces for pepper flakes or grind them into pepper powder before storage. Dehydrated peppers can last for several years in an airtight container. However, for the best flavor, use them within a year.
If you don’t already grow peppers, think about trying, especially now that you know drying peppers is an easy way to preserve your extra harvest. Oven-drying peppers is a tried and true method that allows you to dehydrate many peppers without having to invest in expensive equipment. Dried peppers can last for months in a pantry, giving you access to that summer taste no matter the time of year.